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pUivEKsmoFjvuonj^ 1 







An Introduction to 


• • * 

Henri Bergson 

Member of the Institute and Professor of the College de 


Translated by T. E. Hulme 

Aothorized Edition, Revised by the Author, with 

Additional Material 

G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 
Zbc imfcfietbocftcr press 

• • 



third Printing 

Ube Itnldfterlwcftec fl)re00» Hew fiocft 


THIS celebrated essay was first pub- 
liahed in the Revue de Mctaphysique 
et de Morale, in January, 1903. It ap- 
peared then after Time and Free Will and 
Matter and Memory and before Creative 
Evolution; and while containing ideas set 
forth in the first two of these works, it 
announces some of those which were after- 
wards developed in the last. 

Though this book can in no sense be 
regarded as an epitome of the others, it 
yet forms the best introduction to them. 
M. Edouard Le Roy in his lately published 
book on M. Bergson's philosophy speaks of 
" this marvelously suggestive study which 
constitutes the best preface to the books 

It has, however, more importance than a 

simple introduction would have, for in it 

M. Bergson explains, at greater length and 

vin greater detail than in the other boobs, 



exactly what he means to convey by the 
word intuition. The intuitive method ia 
treated independently and not, as elsewhere 
in his writings, incidentally, in its appli- 
cations to particular problems. Por this 
reason every writer who has attempted to 
give a complete exposition of M. Bergson's 
philosophy has been obliged to quote this 
essay at length; and it is indispensable 
therefore to the full understanding of its 
author's position. Translations into Ger- 
man, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Swedish, 
and Russian have lately appeared, but the 
Trench original is at present out of print. 

This translation has had the great ad- 
vantage of being revised in proof by the 
author. I have to thank him for many 
alternative renderings, and also for a few 
slight alterations in the text, which he 
thought would make his meaning clearer. 
T. E. nULME. , 

St. John's College, 

An Introduction to 

A COMPARISON of the definitions of 
*^ metaphysics and the various concep- 
tions of the absolute leads to the discovery 
that philosophers, in spite of their apparent 
divergencies, agree in distinguishing two 
profoundly diflferent ways of knowing a 
thing. The first implies that we move 
round the object; the second that we enter 
into it. The first depends on the point of 
view at which we are placed and on the 
symbols by which we express ourselves. 
The second neither depends on a point of 
view nor relies on any symbol. The first 
kind of knowledge may be said to stop at 
the relative; the second, in those cases 

where it is possible, to attain the absolute. 


An Introduction to 

Consider, for example, the movement of 
an object in space. My perception of the 
motion will vary with the point of view, 
moving or stationary, from which I observe 
it. My expression of it will vary with the 
systems of axes, or the points of reference, 
to which I relate it; that is, with the sym- 
bols by which I translate it. For this 
donble reason I call such motion relative: 
in the one case, as in the other, I am placed 
outside the object itself. But when I speak 
of an absolute movement, I am attributing 
to the moving object an interior and, so to 
speak, states of mind; I also imply that I 
am in sympathy with those states, and that 
I insert myself in them by an effort of 
imagination. Then, according as the ob- 
ject is moving or stationary, according as 
it adopts one movement or another, what 
I experience will vary. And what I ex- 
perience will depend neither on the point 
of view I may take up in regard to the 
object, since I am inside the obj< 
Bor on the aymbols by which I m 

Metaphysics 3 

late the motion, since I have rejected all 
translations in order to possess the original. 
In short, I shall no longer grasp the move- 
ment from without, remaining where I am, 
but from where it is, from within, as it is 
in itself. I shall possess an absolute. 

Consider, again, a character whose ad- 
ventures are related to me in a novel. The 
author may multiply the traits of his hero's 
character*, may make him speak and act as 
much as he pleases, but all this can never 
be equivalent to the simple and indivisible 
feeling which I should experience if I were 
able for an instant to identify myself with 
the person of the hero himself. Out of that 
indivisible feeling, as from a spring, all the 
words, gestures, and actions of the man 
would appear to me to flow naturally. 
They would no longer be accidents which, 
added to the idea I had already formed of 
the character, continually enriched that 
idea, without ever completing it. The 
character would be given to me all at once, 
in its entirety, and the thousand incidents 

An Introduction to 

which manifest it, instead of adding them- 
selves to the idea and so enriching it, would 
Beein to me, on tlie contrary, to detach 
themselves from it, without, however, ex- 
hausting it or impoverishing its essence. 
All the things I am told about the man 
provide me with so many points of view 
from which I can observe him. All the 
traits which describe him. and which can 
make him known to me only by so many 
comparisons with persons or things I know 
already, are siRns by which he is expressed 
more or less symbolically. Symbols and 
points of view, therefore, place me outside 
him; they give me only what he has in 
cominou with others, and not what belongs 
to him and to him alone. But that which 
is properly himself, that which constitutes 
his essence, cannot 1k^ perceived from 
without, being internal by definition, nor 
t)e expressed by Myiubols, being incom- 
mensurable with everything else. De- 
scription, history, and analysis leave me 
here in I he relative. Coincidence with 

Metaphysics 5 

the person himself would alone give me;' 
the absolute. ! 

It is in this sense, and in this sense only, \ 
that absolute is synonymous with perfec-r 
tion. Were all the photographs of a town, 
taken from all possible points of view, to 
go on indefinitely completing one another, 
they would never be equivalent to the solid 
town in which we walk about. Were all 
the translations of a poem into all possible 
languages to add together their various 
shades of meaning and, correcting each 
other by a kind of mutual retouching, to 
give a more and more faithful image of 
the poem they translate, they would yet 
never succeed in rendering the inner mean- 
ing of the original. A representation taken \ 
from a certain point of view, a translation ) 
made with certain symbols, will always / 
remain imperfect in comparison with the / 
object of which a view has been taken, op/. 
which the symbols seek to express. But the \ 
absolute, which is the object and not its 
representation, the original and not its 




6 An Introduction to 

translation, is perfect, by being perfectly 
what it is. 

/ It is doubtless for this reason that th6 
jl absolute has often been identified with the 
} infinite. Suppose that I wished to com- 
municate to some one who did not know 
Greek the extraordinarily simple impres- 
sion that a passage in Homer makes upon 
me; I should first give a translation of the 
lines, I should then comment on my trans- 
lation, and then develop the commentary; 
in this way, by piling up explanation on 
explanation, I might approach nearer and 
nearer to what I wanted to express; but I 
should never quite reach it. When you 
raise your arm, you accomplish a movement 
of which you have, from within, a simple 
perception; but for me, watching it from 
the outside, your arm passes through one 
point, then through another, and between 
these two there will be still other points; 
so that, if I began to count, the operation 
would go on for ever. Viewed from the 
^ inside, then, an absolute is a simple thing; 

Metaphysics 7 

but looked at from the outside, that is tol 
say, relatively to other things, it becomes, ' 
in relation to these signs which express it, j 
the gold coin for which we never seem able ; 
to finish giving small change. Now, that 
which lends itself at the same time both 
to an indivisible apprehension and to an 
inexhaustible enumeration is, by the very ■ 
definition of the word, an infinite. 

It follows from this that an absolute . 
could only be given in an intmtion^ whilst i 
everything else falls within the province of i 
analysis. By intuition is meant the kind i 
of intellectual sympathy by which one'^' 
places oneself within an object in order to 
coincide with what is unique in it and con- 
sequently inexpressible. Analysis, on the 
contrary, is the operation which reduces the 
object to elements already known, that is, 
to elements common both to it 'and other 
objects. To analyze, therefore, is to ex- 
press a thing as a function of something 
other than itself. All analysis is thus a 
translation, a development into symbols, a 


An Introduction to 

representation taken from auccesaive points 
of view from which we not« as many re- 
semblances &s possible between the new 
object which we are studying and others 
which we believe we know already. In its 
eternally unsatisfied desire to embrace the 
object around which it is compelled to 
turn, analysis multiplies without end the 
number of its points of view in order to 
complete its always incomplete representa- 
tion, and ceaselessly varies its symbols that 
it may perfect the always imperfect trans- 
lation. It goes on, therefore, to infinity. 
But intuition, if intuition is possible, is a 
simple act. 

Now it is easy to see that the ordinary 
function of positive science is analysis. 
Positive science works, then, above all, with 
symbols. Even the most concrete of the 
natural sciences, those concerned with life, 
confine themfielves to the visible form of 
living beings, their organs and anatomical 
elements. They make comparisons between 
these forms, they i-educe the more complex 

Metaphysics 9 

to the more simple; in short, they study 
the workings of life in what is, so to speak, 
only its visual symbol. If there exists any 
means of possessing a reality absolutely in- 
stead of knowing it relatively, of placing 
oneself within it instead of looking at it 
from outside points of view, of having the 
intuition instead of making the analysis: 
in short, of seizing it without any expres- 
sion, translation, or symbolic representation 
— metaphysics is that means. Metaphysics^ 
theriy is the science which claims to dispense 
with symbols. 

There is one reality, at least, which we \ 
all seize from within, by intuition and not 
by simple analysis. It is our own person- | / 
ality in its flowing through time — our self' 
which endures. We may sympathize in- 
tellectually with nothing else, but we 
certainly sympathize with our own selves. 

When I direct my attention inward to 
contemplate my own self (supposed for the 


J » 


An Introduction to 

moment to be inactive), I perceive at first, 
a» a crust solidified on the surface, all the 
perceptions which come to it from the 
material world. These perceptions are clear. 
distinct, juxtaposed or jiistaposable one 
with another; they tend to group them- 
selves into objects. Next, I notice the 
memories which more or less adhere to 
these perceptions and which serve to in- 
terpret them. These memories have been 
detached, as it were, from the depth of my 
jKjrsonality, drawn to the surface by the 
perceptions which I'esemble them ; they rest 
on the surface of my mind without being 
absolutely myself. I-astly, I feel the stir of 
tendencies and motor habits — a crowd of 
virtual actions, more or less firmly bound 
to these perceptions and memories. ' All 
these clearly defined elements appear more 
distinct from me, the more distinct they 
are from each other. Radiating, as they 
do, from within outwards, they form, col- 
lectively, the surface of a sphere which 
tends to grow larger and lose itself in the 



Metaphysics 1 1 

exterior world. But if I draw myself in 1 
from the periphery towards the centre, if I i 
search in the depth of my being that which 
is most uniformly, most constantly, and j 
most enduringly myself, I find an altogether 
different thing. 

There is, beneath these sharply cut crys- 
tals and this frozen surface, a continuous 
flux which is not comparable to any flux I^v, 
have ever seen. There is a succession of 
states, each of which announces that which 
follows and contains that which precedes 
it. They can, properly speaking, only be 
said to form multiple states when I have 
already passed them and turn back to ob- 
serve their track. Whilst I was experien- 
cing them they were so solidly organized, so 
profoundly animated with a common life, 
that I could not have said where any one 
of them finished or where another com- 
menced. In reality no one of them begins 
or ends, but all extend into each other. 
-f This inner life may be compared to the /^ 
unrolling of a coil, for there is no living 


An Introduction to 

being who does not feeT Limself 
gradually to the end of his rdle; and to 
live is to grow old. But it may just as 
well be compared to a continual rolling np, 
like that of a thread on a ball, for our past 
follows us, it swells incessantly with the, 
present that it picks up on ils way; ai 
consciousness means memory. 

But actually it is neither an unrolling 
nor a rolling up, for these two similes evoke 
the idea of lines and surfaces whose parts 
are homogeneous and superposable on one 
another? Now, there are no two ideutical 
■ moments in the life of the same conscious 
being. Take the simplest sensation, sup- 
pose it constant, absorb in it the entire 
personality: the consciousness which will 
accompany this sensation cannot remain 
identical with itself for two consecutive 
momenta, because the second moment al- 
ways contains, over and above the first, the 
memory that the first has bequeathed to it. 
A consciousueas which could experience two 
identical moments would be a consciousness 







without memory. It would die and be bom 
again continually. In what other way 
could one represent unconsciousness? 

It would be better, then, to use as a \w.J 

comparison the myriad-tinted spectrum, / 1 

with its insensible gradations leading from/ ' 

one shade to another. A current of feeling 

which passed along the spectrum, asnuming 

in turn the tint of each of its shades, would 

experience a aeries of gradual changes, each 

of which would announce the one to follow 

and would sum up those which preceded 

Yet even here the successive shades of 

le spectrum always remain external one 

another. They are juxtaposed ; they 

occupy space. But pure duration, on the 

contrary, excludes all idea of juxtaposition, |. 

liprocal externality, and extension. ' 

Let us, then, rather, imagine an infinitely \ I 

lall elastic body, contracted, if it were ^ J 

is&ible, to a mathematical point. Ijet this 

drawn out gradually in such a manner 

ihat from the point comes a constantly 

lengthening line. Let us fix our attention 

14 An Introduction to 

not on the line as a line, but on the 
action by which it is traced. Let us bear 
in mind that this action, in spite of its 
duration, is indivisible if accomplished with- 
out stopping, that if a stopping-point is in- 
serted, we have two actions instead of one, 
that each of these separate actions is then 
the indivisible operation of which we speak, 
and that it is not the moving action itself 
which is divisible, but, rather, the station- 
ary line it leaves behind it as its track in 
space. Finally, let us free ourselves from 
the space which underlies the movement in 
order to consider only the movement itself, 
the act of tension or extension; in short, 
pure mobility. We shall have this time a 
more faithful image of the development of 
our self in duration. 
^ However, even this image is incomplete, 
and, indeed, every comparison will be in- 
. sufficient, because the unrolling of our 
/ duration resembles in some of its aspects 
\ the unity of an advancing movement and 
\in others the multiplicity of expanding 

Metaphysics 15 

states; and, clearly, no metaphor can ex- ^ 
press one of these two aspects without 
sacrificing the other. If I use the com- 
parison of the spectrum with its thousand 
shades, I have before me a thing already 
made, whilst duration is continually in the \ 
making. If I think of an elastic which is 
being stretched, or of a spring which is 
extended or relaxed, I forget the richness of 
color, characteristic of duration that is 
lived, to see only the simple movement by 
which consciousness passes from one shade 
to another. The inner life is all this „ at 
once: variety of qualities, continuity of 
progress, and unity of direction. It cannot 
be represented by images. 

But it is even less possible to represent. \ 
it by concepts^ that is by abstract, general, / 
or simple ideas. It is true that no image 
can reproduce exactly the original feeling 
I have of the flow of my own conscious life. 
But it is not even necessary that I should 
attempt to render it. If a man is incapable 
of getting for himself the intuition of the 

An Introduction to 

constitutive duration of his own being, 
nothing will ever give it to him, concepts 
po more than images. Here the single aim 
/of the philosopher should be to promote a 
t certain effort, which in most men is usually 
\ fettered by habits of mind more useful to 
'ilife. Now the image has at least this ad- 
Wantage, that it keeps us in the concrete. 
i>Io image can replace the intuition of dura- 
tion, Tjut many diverse images, borrowed 
from very different orders of things, may, 
by the convergence of their action, direct, 
consciousness to the precise point where 
there is a certain intuition to be seized. 
By choosing images as dissimilar as pos- 
sible, we shall prevent any one of them 
from usurping the place of the intuition it 
is intended to call up, since it would then 
be driven away at once by its rivals. By 
providing that, in spite of their differences f 
of aspect, they all require from the mindi 
the same kind of attention, and in somei 
sort the same degree of tension, we shall 
gradually accustom consciousness to a par- 



Hcnlar and clearly-defined disposition — that 
precisely which it must adopt in order to 
appear to itself as it really is, without any 
veil. But, then, consciouenefis must at 
least consent to make the effort. For it 
will have been shown nothing ; it will 
simply have been placed in the attitude it 
must take up in order to make the de- 
sired effort, and so come by itself to the 
intuition. Concepts on the contrary — 
especially if they are simple — have the 
disadvantage of being in reality symbols 
substituted for the object they symbolize, 
and demand no effort on our part. Ex- 
amined closely, each of them, it would be 
^Eteen, retains only that part of the object 
^Khich is common to it and to others, and 
^"fecpresBes, still more than the image does, 
a comparison between the object and others' 
w hich resemble it. But as the comparison 
^8 made manifest a resemblance, as the 
lemblance is a property of the object, and 
(I a pi-operty has every appearance of being 
Lparf of the object which possesses it, we 

1 8 An Introduction to 

easily persuade ourselves that by setting 
concept beside concept we are reconstruct- 
ing the whole of the object with its parts, 
thus obtaining, so to speak, its intellectual 
equivalenti'-'ni this way we believe that we 
^ can form a faithful representation of dura- 
j tion by setting in line the concepts of 
\ unity, multiplicity, continuity, finite or in- 
\\ finite divisibility, etc. There precisely is 
\ the illusion. There also is the danger. 
Just in so far as abstract ideas can render 
service to analysis, that is, to the scientific 
study of the object in its relations to other 
objects, so far are they incapable of replac- 
. ing intuition, that is, the metaphysical in- 
vestigation of what is essential and unique 
in the object. For on the one hand these 
concepts, laid side by side, never actually 
give us more than an artificial reconstruc- 
tion of the object, of which they can only 
' symbolize certain general, and, in a way, . 

impersonal aspects; it is therefore useless 

! to believe that with them we can seize a 

reality of which they present to us the 

Metaphysics 19 

shadow alone. And, on the other hand, 
besides the illusion there is also a very 
serious danger. For the concept general- 
izes at the same time as it abstracts. The 
concept can only symbolize a particular 
property by making it common to an in- 
finity of things. It thei'cfore always more 
or less deforms the property by the exten- 
sion it gives to it. Replaced in the meta- 
physical object to which it belongs, a 
property coincides with the object, or at least 
moulds itself on it, and adopts the same 
outline. Extracted from the metaphysical 
object, and presented in a concept, it grows 
indefinitely larger, and goes beyond the 
object itself, since henceforth it has to con- 
tain it, along with a number of other objects. 
Thus the different concepts that we form of 
the properties of a thing inscribe round it 
so many circles, each much too large and 
none of them fitting it exactly. And yet, 
in the thing itself the properties coincided 
with the thing, and coincided consequently 
with one another. So that if we are bent 




An Introduction fo 

on reconstructing the object with concepts, 
some artifice must be sought whereby this 
coincidence of the object and its properties 
can be brought about. For example, we 
may choose one of the concepts and try, 
starting from it, to get round to the others. 
But we shall then soon discover that ac- 
cording as we start from one concept or 
another, the meeting and combination of 
the concepts will take place in an altogether 
different way. According as we start, for 
example, from unity or from multiplicity, 
we shall have to conceive differently the 
multiple unity of duration. Everything 
will depend on the weight we attribute to 
this or that concept, and this weight will 
always be arbitrary, since the concept ex- 
tracted from the object has no weight, being 
only the shadow of a body. In this way, 
as many different systems will spring up 
as there are external points of view from 
which the reality can be examined, or larger 
circles in which it can he enclosed. Himple 
concepts have, then, not only the incon- 

Metaphysics 21 

venience of dividing the concrete unity of 
the object into so many symbolical expres- 
sions; they also divide philosophy into dis- 
tinct schools, each of which takes its seat, 
chooses its counters, and carries on with 
the others a game that will never end. 
Either metaB hJaica. is only this play of 
ideas, or else, if it is a serious occupation 
of the mind, if it is a science and not simply 
an exercise, it must transcend concepts in 
order to reach intuition. Certainly, con^/ 
cepts are necessary to it, for all the other 
sciences work as a rule with concepts, and 
metaphysics cannot dispense with the other 
sciences. But it is only truly itself when 
it goes beyond the concept, or at least when 
it frees itself from rigid and ready-made 
concepts in order to create a kind very dif- 
ferent from those which we habitually use; 
I mean supple, mobile, and almost fluid 
representations, always ready to mould 
themselves on the fleeting forms of intui- 
tion. We shall return later to this import- 
ant point. .Let it suffice us for the moment 

22 An Introcjuction to 


/ to have shown that otr duration can be 
presented to us directly in an intuition, 


j that it can be suggested to us indirectly 

by images, but that it can never — ^if we 

confine the word concept to its proper 

meaning — be enclosed in a conceptual 

f representation. 

Let us try for an instant to consider our 
duration as a multiplicity. It will then be 
necessary to add that the terms of this 
multiplicity, instead of being distinct, as 
they are in any other multiplicity, encroach 
on one another; and that while we can no 
doubt, by an eflfort of imagination, solidify 
duration once it has elapsed, divide it into 
juxtaposed portions and count all these 
portions, yet this operation is accomplished 
on the frozen memory of the duration, on 
the stationary trace which the mobility of 
duration leaves behind it, and not on the 
duration itself. We must admit, therefore, 
that if there is a multiplicity here, it bears 
no resemblance to any other multiplicity 
we know. Shall we say, then, that dura- 

Metaphysics 23 

tion has unity? Doubtless, a continuity of 
elements which prolong themselves into one 
another participates in unity as much as 
in multiplicity; but this moving, changing, 
colored, living unity has hardly anything 
in common with the abstract, motionless, 
and empty unity which the concept of pure 
unity circumscribes. Shall we conclude 
from this that duration must be defined as 
unity and multiplicity at the same time? 
But singularly enough, however much I 
manipulate the two concepts, portion 
them out, combine them diflferently, prac- 
tise on them the most subtle operations 
of mental chemistry, I never obtain any- 
thing which resembles the simple in- 
tuition that I have of duration; while, 
on the contrary, when I replace myself in ' 
duration by an effort of intuition, I im- 
mediately perc^ve how it is unity, multi- 
plicity, and many other things besides^' 
These diflFerent concepts, then, were only so 
many standpoints* from which we could 
consider duration. Neither separated nor 


An Introduction to 

reunited have they made us penetrate inl 

We do penetrate into it, however, and 
that can only be by an effort of intuition. 
In this sense, an inner, absolute knowledge 
of the duration of the self by the self is 
possible. But if metaphysics here demands 
and can obtain an intuition, science has 
none the less need of an analysis. Now 
it is a confusion between the function 
of analysis and that of intuition which 
gives birth to the discussions between 
the schools and the conflicts between 

Psychology, in fact, proceeds like all the 
other sciences by analysis. It resolves the 
self, which has been given to it at first in 
a simple intuition, into sensations, feelings, 
ideas, etc., which it studies separately. It 
substitutes, then, for the self a series of 
elements which form the facts of psy- 
chology. But are these elements really 
parts? That is the whole question, 
is because it has l)een evaded tl 


Metaphysics 25 

problem of human personality has so often 
been stated in insoluble terms. 

It is incontestable that every psychical \ 
state, simply because it belongs to a per- / 
son, reflects the whole of a personality. 
Every feeling, however simple it may be, 
contains virtually within it the whole 
past and present of the being experiencing 
it, and, consequently, can only be separated 
and constituted into a " state " by an effort 
of abstraction or of analysis. But it is no ^ ., 
less incontestable that without this effort / 
of abstraction or analysis there would be j 
no possible development of the science of ' 
psychology. What, then, exactly, is the 
operation by which a psychologis t detaches 
a mental state in order to erect it into a 


more or less independent entity? He be- 
gins by neglecting that special coloring 
of the personality which cannot be ex- 
pressed in known and common terms. 
Then he endeavors to isolate, in the person 
already thus simplified, some aspect which 
lends itself to an interesting inquiry. If 


An Introduction to 

he is considering inclination, for exampi 
he will neglect the inexpressible shade 
which colors it, and which makes the in- 
clination mine and not jours; he will fix 
his attention on the movement by which 
our personality leans towards a certain 
object : he will isolate this attitude, and it 
is this special aspect of the personality, this 
snapshot of the mobility of the inner life, 
this " diagram " of concrete inclination, 
that he will erect into an independent 
fact. There is in this something very like 
what an artist passing through Paris does 
when he makes, for example, a sketch of a 
tower of Notre Dame. The tower is in- 
separably united to the building, which is 
itself no less inseparably united to the 
ground, to its surroundings, to the whole 
of Paris, and so on. It is first necessary 
to detach it from all these ; only one aspect 
of the whole is noted, that formed by the 
tower of Notre Dame. Moreover, the spe- 
cial form of this tower is doe to the group- 
ing of the stones of which it is composed ; 

tade ' 

Metaphysics 27 

but the artist does not concern himself with 
these stones, he notes only the silhouette of 
the tower. For the real and internal organi- 
zation of the thing he substitutes, then, an 
external and schematic representation. So 
that, on the whole, his sketch corresponds 
to an observation of the object from a cer- 
tain point of view and to the choice of a 
certain means of representation. But ex- 
actly the same thing holds true of the 
operation by which the psychologist ex- 
tracts a single mental state from the whole 
I)ersonality. This isolated psychical state 
is hardly anything but a sketch, the com- 
mencement of an artificial reconstruction; 
it is the whole considered under a certain 
elementary aspect in which we are specially 
interested and which we have carefully 
noted. It is not a part, but an element. 
It has not been obtained by a natural 
dismemberment, but by analysis. 

Now beneath all the sketches he has made 
at Paris the visitor will probably, by way 
of memento, write the word " Paris." And 



^n Introduction to 

as he has really seen Paris, he will be able, 
with the help of the original intnitiou he 
had of the whole, to place his sketches 
therein, and so join them up together. But 
there is no way of performing the inverse 
operation; it is impossible, even with an 
infinite number of accurate sketches, and 
even with the word "Paris" which indi- 
cates that they must be combined together, 
to get back to an intuition that one has 
never bad, and to give oneself an impi-ession 
of what Paris is like if one has never seen 
it. This is because we are not dealing here 
with real parts, but with mere notes of the 
total impression. To take a still more 
striking example, where the notation is 
more completely Rymbolic, suppose that I 
am shown, mixed together at random, the 
letters which make up a poem I am 
ignorant of. If the letters were parts of 
the poem, I could attempt to reconstitute 
the poem with them by trying the different 
possible arrangements, as a child dofs with 
the pieces of a Chinese puzzle. But I 

Metaphysics 29 

should never for a moment think of attempt- 
ing such a thing in this ease, because the 
letters are not component partSy but only 
partial expressions, which is quite a dif- 
ferent thing. That is why, if I know the 
poem, I at once put each of the letters in 
its proper place and join them up without 
difficulty by a continuous connection, 
whilst the inverse operation is impossible. 
Even when I believe I am actually attempt- 
ing this inverse operation, even when I put 
the letters end to end, I begin by thinking 
of some plausible meaning. I thereby give 
myself an intuition, and from this intuition 
I attempt to redescend to the elementary 
symbols which would reconstitute its ex- 
pression. The very idea of reconstituting a 
thing by operations practised on symbolic 
elements alone implies such an absurdity 
that it would never occur to any one if 
they recollected that they were not dealing 
with fragments of the thing, but only, as / 
it were, with fragments of its symbol. 
Such is, however, the undertaking of the 



An Introduction to 

philosophcre who Iry to reconstruct 
souality with psychical states, whether they 
confine themselves to those states alone, or 
whether they add a kind of thread for the 
purpose of joining the states together. Both 
empiricists and rationalists are victims of 
I the same fallacy. Both of them mistake 
partial notations for real parts, thus con- 
fusing the point of view of analysis and 
of intuition, of science and of metaphysics. 
The empiricists say quite rightly that 
psychologi<ral analysis discovers nothing 
more in personality than paychical states. 
Such is, in fact, the function, and the very 
definition of analysis. The psychologist has 
nothing else to do but analyze personality, 
that is, to note certain states; at the most 
he may put the lahel " ego " on these states 
in saying they are " states of the ego," juat 
as the artist writes the word " Paris " on 
each of his sketches. On the level at which 
the psychologist places himself, and on 
which he must place himself, the "ego 
only a sign by which the primitive, 


they 1 

Metaphysics 3' 

moreover very confused, intuition which 
has furnished the psychologist with his 
subject-matter is recalled ; it is only a word, 
and the great error here lies in believing 
that while remaining on the same level we 
can find behind the word a thing. Such 
has been the error of those philosophers who 
have not been able to resign themselves to 
being only psychologists in psychology, 
Taine and Stuart Mill, for example. Psy- 
chologists in the method they apply, they 
have remained metaphysicians in the object 
they set before themselves. They desire an 
intuition, and by a strange inconsistency ) 
they seek this intuition in analysis, which/ 
is the very negation of it. "I They look for' 
the ego, and they claim to find it in psy- 
chical states, though this diversity of states 
has itself only been obtained, and could only 
be obtained, by transporting oneself outside 
the ego altogether, so as to make a series 
of sketches, notes, and more or less symbolic 
and schematic diagrams. Thus, however 
much they place the states side by side, 


\n Introduction to 

mijltiplying points of contact and exploring 
the intervals, the ego always escapes them, 
so that they finish by seeing in it nothing 
bnt a vain phantom. We might as well 
deny that the Iliad had a meaning, on the 
ground that we had looked in vain for that 
meaning in the intervals between the letters 
jof which it is composed. 
;' Philosophical empiricism is born here, 
jthen, of a confusion between the point of 
, /view of intuition and that of analysis. 
Seeldng for the original in the translation, 
where naturally it cannot be, it denies the 
existence of the original on the ground that 
it is not found in the translation. It leada 
of necessity to negations ; but on examining 
the matter closely, we perceive that these 
negations simply mean that analysis is not 
intuition, which is self-evident. From the 
original, and, one must add, very indistinct 
intuition which gives positive science its 
material, science passes immediately to 
analysis, which multiplies to infinity its 
observations of this material from outside 

Metaphysics 33 

points of view. It soon comes to believe 
that by putting together all these diagrams 
it can reconstitute the object itself. No 
wonder, then, that it sees this object fly be- 
fore it, like a child that would like to make 
a solid plaything out of the shadows out- 
lined along the wall! 

But rationalism is the dupe of the same 
illusion. It starts out from the same con- 
fusion as empiricism, and remains equally 
powerless to reach the inner self. Like 
empiricism, it considers psychical states as 
so many fragments detached from an egoi 
that hinds them together. Like empiricism, 
it tries to join these fragments together in 

■order to re-create the unity of the self. 
Kke empiricism, finally, it sees this unity 
Bf the self, in the continually renewed effort 
It makes to clasp it, steal away indefinitely 
pke a phantom. But whilst empiricism,; 
■freary of the struggle, ends by declaring) 
that there ia nothing else but the multi-( 
plicity of psychical states, rationalism per-) 
3tB in affirming the "unity of the person.^ 

34 An Introduction to 

It is true that, seeking this unity on the 
level of the psychical states themselves, and 
obliged, besides, to put down to the account 
of these states all the qualities and deter- 
minations that it finds by analysis (since 
analysis by its very definition leads always 
to states ) , nothing is left to it, for the unity 
of personality, but something purely nega- 
tive, the absence of all determination. The 
psychical states having necessarily in this 
analysis taken and kept for themselves 
everything that can serve as matter, the 
; " unity of the ego " can never be more than 
a form without content. It will be abso- 
lutely indeterminate and absolutely void. 
To these detached psychical states, to 
these shadows of the ego, the sum of which 
was for the empiricists the equivalent of 
the self, rationalism, in order to reconstitute 
personality, adds something still more un- 
real, the void in which these shadows move 
— a place for shadows, one might say. How 
could this " form," which is,4tf truth form- 
less, serve to characterize a living, active, 

Metaphysics 35 

concrete personality, op to distinguish Peter 
from Paul? Is it astonishing that the 
philosophers who have isolated this " form " 
of personality should, then, find it insuf- 
ficient to characterize a definite person, and 
that they should be gradually led to make 
their empty ego a kind of bottomless re- 
ceptacle, which belongs no more to Peter 
than to Paul, and in which there is room, 
according to our preference, for entire hu- 
manity, for God, or for existence in general? 
I see in this matter only one difference '^^ 
between empiricism and rationalism. The 
former, seeking the unity of the ego in 
the gaps, as it were, between the psychi- 
cal states, is led to fill the gaps with 
other states, and so on indefinitely, so 
that the ego, compressed in a constantly 
narrowing interval, tends towards zero, as 
analysis is pushed farther and farther; 
whilst rationalism, making the ego the place 
where mental states are lodged, is confronted 
with an empty space which we have no rea- 
son to limit here rather than there, which 




An Introduction to 

goes beyond each of the successive bou! 
daries that we try to assign to it, which 
constantly grows larger, and which tends 
to lose itself no longer in zero, but in the 

The distance, then, between a so-called 
" empiriciam " like that of Taine and the 
most transcendental speculations of certain 
German pantheists is very much less than is 
generally supposed. The method is analo- 
gous in both cases; it consists in reason- 
ing about the elements of a translation as 
, y if they were parts of the original. But a 
true empiricism is that which proposes to 
get as near to the original itself as pos- 
sible, to search deeply into its life, and so, 
I by a kind of intellectual auscultation, to 
feel the throbbinga of its soul; and this 
tnie empiricism is the true metaphysics. It 
is true that the task is an extremely diffi- 
cult one, for none of the ready-made concep- 
tions which thought employs in its daily 
operations can be of any use. Nothing is 
mure easy than to aay that the ego is multi- 



Iplieity, or that it is unity, or that it is tlie 

byntheslB of both. Unity and multiplicity 

iare liere representations that we have no 

need to cut out on tlie model of the object ; 

they are found i-eady-made, and have only 

I to be chosen from a heap. Thoy are stock- 

l.flize clothes which do just as well for Peter 

[ as for Paul, for they set ofE the form of 

neither. But an empiricism worthy of the 

name, an empiriciBm which works only to I 

measure, is obliged for each new object that 

it studies to make an absolutely fresh effort. 

It cuts out for the object a concept which 

■ IB appropriate to that object alone, a con- 

Pcept which can as yet hardly be called a 

concept, since it applies to this one thing. 

It does not proceed by combining current 

ideas like unity and multiplicity; hut it 

leads us, on the contrary, to a simple, 

unique representation, which, however once 

vformed, enables us to understand easily how 

pt is that we can place it in the frames 

fcnity, multiplicity, etc., all much larger 

an itself. In short, philosophy thus de-^ 

An Introduction to 

fined does not consist in the choice of cer-J 
tain concepts, and in taking sides with i 
Bchool, but in the search for a unique intui- 1 
tion from which we can descend with equal-l 
ease to different concepts, because we arftl 
placed above the divisions of the school8.'J 

,/ That personality has unity cannot be c 
^ nied; but such an affirmation teaches cm 
nothing about the extraordinary nature o^ 

I the particular unity presented by per8on,4 

' ality. That our self is multiple I i 
agree, but then it must be understood 1 
it is a multiplicity which has nothing ' 
common with any other multiplicity. Whi 
is really important for philosophy is tori 
know exactly what unity, what multiplicity, 
and what reality superior both to abstract 
unity and multiplicity the multiple unity 
of the self actually is. Now philosopl^ 
will know this only when it recovers poi 
session of the simple intuition of the 8ell| 

■ by the self. Then, according to the direcl 
jtion it chooses for its descent from this 
Bnmmit, it will arrive at unity or multj 



Metaphysics 39 

plicity, or at any one of the concepts by 
which we try to define the moving life of 
the self. But no mingling of these con- 
cepts would give anything which at all 
resembles the self that endures. 

If we are shown a solid cone, we see with- 
out any difficulty how it narrows towards 
the summit and tends to be lost in a mathe- 
matical point, and also how it enlarges in 
the direction of the base into an indefinitely 
increasing circle. But neither the point 
nor the circle, nor the juxtaposition of the 
two on a plane, would give us the least 
idea of a cone. The same thing holds true 
of the unity and multiplicity of mental life, 
and of the ze ro and the infinite towards 
which empiricism and rationalism conduct 

Concepts, as we shall show elsewhere, v 
generally go together in couples and repre- 
sent two contraries. There is hardly any 
concrete reality which cannot be observed 
from two opposing standpoints, which can- 
not consequently be subsumed under two 



An Introduction to 

antagonistic concepts. Hence a thesis and 
an antithesis which we endearor in vain 
to reconcile logically, for the very simple 
reason that it is impossible, with concepts 
and observations taken from outside points 
of view, to make a thing. But from the 
object, seized by intuition, we pass easily 
in many cases to the two contrary concepts j 
and as in that way thesis and antithesis can 
be seen to spring from reality, we grasp at 
the same time how it is that the two a: 
opposed and how they are reconciled. 

It is true that to accomplish this, it_u 
necessary to proceed by a reversal _ of _ the 
usual work of the intellect. Thinking usu- 
ally consists in passing from concepts to 
Nothings, and not from things to concepts. 
To know a reality, in the usual sense of the 
word " know," is to take ready-made con- 
cepts, to portion them out and to mix them 
together until a practical equivalent of the 
reality is obtained. But it must he remem- 
bered that the normal work of the intellect 
is far from being disinterested. We do not 


Metaphysics 41 

aim genemlly^t knowledge for the sake of 
knowledge, but in order to take sides, to 
draw profit— in short, to satisfy an inter- 
est. We inquire up to what point the 
object we seek to know is this or that^ to 
what known class it belongs, and what kind 
of action, bearing, or attitude it should 
suggest to us. These different possible 
actions and attitudes are so many concept 
tual directions of our thought, determined 
once for all; it remains only to follow 
them: in that precisely consists the appli- 
cation of concepts to things. To try to fit 
a concept on an object is simply to ask 
what we can do with the object, and what 
it can do for us. To label an object with 
a certain concept is to mark in precise terms 
the kind of action or attitude the object 
should suggest to us. All knowledge, prop-V. 
erly so called, is t hen o ri ented in a cer tain 1 7 
direction, or taken from a certain^ppint of / 
view. It is true that our interest is often/ 
complex. This is why it happens that our 
knowledge of the same object may face sev- 

42 An Introduction to 

ifral MucceMKive directionin and may be taken 
ffom varioiiH pointH of riew. It is this 
wbii;h cronntituteH, in the usual meaning of 
th(! ti^nriH, a " broad " and " comprehensive " 
knowli^lge of the object; the object is then 
brought not under one single concept, but 
tinder w^veral in which it is supposed to 
" par(-l(!!pate." IIow does it participate in 
all th(!H(^ (concepts at the same time? This 
in a qtumticm which does not concern our 
Iirnctical action and about which we need 
not trouble. It is, therefore, natural and 
logtttmate in daily life to proceed by the 
juxtaposition and portioning out of con- 
oopts; no {>hiIo8ophical difficulty will arise 
tnm\ this prtH*eiluix^, since by a tacit agree- 
nuMit wo shall al>8tain from philosophizing. 
Uut to carry this modus opeivndi into 
phlU>8ophy» to pass here also fn>m concepts 
to tht> things to us»e in order to obtain a 
tU»lnhvn?»tetl knowledge of an object (that 
th{» Uto^ ^v dess^ire to grasp as it is in itself) 
« uuiuner of knowing inspired by a determin- 
iiti^ iniii'neHSil^ eomsisting by deJinirion in an 

Metaphysics 43 

externally-taken view of the object, is to 
go against the end that we have chosen, to 
condemn philosophy to an eternal skirmish- 
ing between the schools and to install con- 
tradiction in the very heart of the object 
and of the method. Either there is no 
philosophy possible, and all knowledge of 
things is a practical knowledge aimed at 
the profit to be drawn from them, or else 
philosophy consists in placing oneself with- 
in the object itself by an effort of intuition. 

But in order to understand the nature of 
this intuition, in order to fix with precision 
where intuition ends and where analysis I 
begins, it is necessary to return to what was 
said earlier about the flux of duration. 

It will be noticed that an essential char- 
acteristic of the concepts and diagrams to 
which analysis leads is that, while being 
considered, they remain stationary. I iso- 
late from the totality of interior life that 
psychical entity which I call a simple sensa- 
tion. So long as I study it, I suppose that 
it remains constant. If I noticed any 


An Introduction to 

change in it, I should say that it was not 
a single sensation but several successive 
sensations, and I should then transfer to 
each of these successive sensations the im- 
mufabiiity that I first attributed to the 
total sensation. In any case I can, by 
pushing the analysis far enough, always 
manage to arrive at elements which I agree 
to consider immutable. There, and there 
only, shall I find the solid basis of opera- 
tions which science needs for its own proper 

U~ But, then, I cannot escape the objec- 
tion that there is no state of mind, how- 
ever simple, which does not change every 
moment, since there is no consciousness 
without memory, and no continuation of a 
state without the addition, to the present 
feeling, of the memory of past moments. It 
is this which constitutes duration. Inner 
duration is the continuous life of a memory 
which prolongs the past into the present, 
the present either containing within it ; 
a distinct form the ceaselessly growth 

Metaphysics 45 

image of the past, or, more probably, show- 
ing by its continual change of quality the 
heavier and still heavier load we drag be- 
hind us as we grow older. Without this 
survival of the past into the present there 
would be no duration, but only instantaneity. 
Probably if I am thus accused of taking 
the mental state out of duration by the mere 
fact that I analyze it, I shall reply, " Is not 
each of these elementary psychical states, to 
which my analysis leads, itself a state which 
occupies time? My analysis," I shall say, 
"does indeed resolve the inner life into 
states, each of which is homogeneous with 
itself; only, since the homogeneity extends 
over a definite number of minutes or of 
seconds, the elementary psychical state does 
not cease to endure, although it does not 
change." ^ 

"^ But, in saying that, I fail to see that the 
definite number of minutes and of seconds, 
which I am attributing here to the elemen- 
tary psychical state, has simply the value of 
a sign intended to remind me that the psy- 

46 An Introduction 

;eneous, is^^^ 

chical state, supposed homogein 
reality a state which changes and endures. 
The state, taken in itself, is a periietual 
becoming. I have extracted from this be- 
coming a certain average of quality, which 
I have supposed invariable; I have in this 
way constituted a stable and consequently 
schematic state. I have, on the other hand, 
extracted from it Becoming in general, i. e., 
a becoming which is not the becoming of 
any particular thing, and this is what I 
have called the time the state occupies. 
Were I to look at it closely, I should see 
that this abstract time is as immobile for 
me as the state which I localize in it, that 
it could flow only by a continual change of 
quality, and that if it is without quality, 
merely the theatre of the change, it thus 
becomes an immobile medium. I should see 
that the construction of this homogeneous 
time is simply designed to facilitate the 
comparison between the different concrete 
durations, to permit us to count simulta- 
neities, and to measure one flux of duration 

Metaphysics 47 

in relation to another. . . And lastly I should 
understand that, in attaching the sign of 
a definite number of minutes and of seconds 
to the representation of an elementary psy- 
chical state, I am merely reminding myself 
and others that the state has been detached 
from an ego which endures, and merely 
marking out the place where it must 
again be set in movement in order to bring 
it back from the abstract schematic thing 
it has become to the concrete state it was 
at first. But I ignore all that, because it 
has nothing to do with analysis. 

This means that analysis operates always 
on the immobile, whilst intuition places it- 
self in mobility, or, what comes to the same 
thing, in duration. There lies the very dis- 
tinct line of demarcation between intuition 
and analysis. The real, the experienced, 
and the concrete are recognized by the fact 
that they are variability itself, the element 
by the fact that it is invariable. And the 1 
element is invariable by definition, being a ^ 
diagram, a simplified reconstruction, often 


An Introduction to 

a mere symbol, in any case a motionless 
view of the moving reality. 
A^But the error consists in believing that 
we can reconstruct the real with these dia- 
grams. As we have already said and may 
as well repeat here — from intuition one can 
pass to^naljsis, but not from analyaia to 

Out of variability we can make as many 
variations, qualities and modifications as we 
please, since these are so many static views, 
taken by analysis, of the mobility given to 
intuition. But these modifications, put end 
/ to end, will produce nothing which re- 
\ sembles variability, since they are not parts 
of it, but elements, which is quite a different 

Consider, for example, the variability 
which is nearest to homogeneity, that of 
movement in space. Along the whole of 
this movement we can imagine possible stop- 
pages ; these are what we call the positions 
of the moving body, or the points by which 
But with these positions, even 

Metaphysics 49 

with an infinite number of them, we shall 
never make movement. They are not parts 
of the movement, they are so many snap- 
shots of it; they are, one might say, only 
supposed stopping-places. The moving boc^^'^^ C * * ^ 
is never really in any of the points : the X 
most we can say is that it passes through/ 
them. But passage, which is movement, has 
nothing in common with stoppage, which 
is immobility. A movement cannot be 
superposed on an immobility, or it would 
then coincide with it, which would be a 
contradiction. The points are not in the 
movement, as parts, nor even beneath it, 
as positions occupied by the moving body. 
They are simply projected by us under the 
movement, as so many places where a mov- 
ing body, which by hypothesis does not 
stop, would be if it were to stop. They are 
not, therefore, properly speaking, positions, . 
but " suppositions," aspects, or points of 
view of the mind. But how could we con- 
struct a thing with points of view? 

Nevertheless, this is what we try to do j 

50 An Introduction to 

whenever we reason about movement, and 
also about time, for which movement serves 

[ as a means of representation. As a result 

of an illusion deeply rooted in our mind, 

and because we cannot prevent ourselves 

J from considering analysis as the equivalent 

N^of intuition, we begin by distinguishing 
along the whole extent of the movement, a 
certain number of possible stoppages or 
points, which we make, whether they like 
it or no, parts of the movement. Faced 
with our impotence to reconstruct the move- 
ment with these points, we insert other 
points, believing that we can in this way 
get nearer to the essential mobility in the 
movement. Then, as this mobility still es- 
capes us, we substitute for a fixed and 
finite number of points an " indefinitely in- 
creasing" number — thus vainly trying to 
counterfeit, by the movement of a thought 
that goes on indefinitely adding points to 
points, the real and undivided motion of 
the moving body. Finally, we say that 
movement is composed of points, but that 

Metaphysics 51 

it comprises, in addition, the obscure and 
mysterious passage from one position to 
the next. As if the obscurity was not due 
entirely to the fact that we have supposed 
immobility to be clearer than mobility and 
rest anterior to movement! As if the 
mystery did not follow entirely from our 
attempting to pass from stoppages to 
movement by way of addition, which is im- 
possible, when it is so easy to pass, by 
simple diminution, from movement to the 
slackening of movement, and so to im- 
mobility ! It is m ovement that wemust a. 
custom ourselves to look upon as simplest / 
and clearest, immobility being only the ex- / 
treme limit of the slowing down of move- / 
ment, a limit reached only, perhaps, in / ; 
thought and never realized in nature. What 
we have done is to seek for the meaning of 
the poem in the form of the letters of which 
it is composed; we have believed that by 
considering an increasing number of letters 
we would grasp at last the ever-escaping 
meaning, and in desperation, seeing that it 


An Introduction to 

was useless to seek for a part of the sense 
in each of the letters, we have supposed 
that it was between each letter and the 
next that this long-sought fragment of 
the mysterious sense was lodged ! But the 
/ letters, it must be pointed out once again, 
are not parts of the thing, but elements of 
the symbol. Again, the positions of the 
moving body are not parts of the move- 
ment; they are points of the space which 
is supposed to underlie the movement. 
This empty and immobile space which is 
merely conceived, never perceived, has the 
value of a symbol only. How could you 
ever manufacture_j!eality_bjmanipuiating 

But the symbol in this case responds to 
the most inveterate habits of our thought, 
We place ourselves as a rule in immobility, 
in which we find a point of support for 
practical, and with this immo- 
bility we try to reconstruct motion. We only 
obtain in this way a clumsy imitation, a 
counterfeit of real movement, but this imita- 


Metaphysics 53 

tion is much more useful in life than the 
intuition of the thing itself would be. Now 
our mind haa an irresistible tendency to 
consider that idea clearest which is most 
often useful to it. That is why immobility 
seems to it clearer than mobility, and rest 
anterior to movement. 

The difficulties to which the problem of 
movement has given rise from the earliest 
antiquity have originated in this way. They 
result always from the fact that we insist 
on passing from space to movement, from 
the trajectory to the flight, from immobile 

isitions to mobility, and on passing from 
One to the other by way of addition. But 
it is movement which is anterior to im- 
mobility, and the relation between positions 
and a displacement is not that of parts to 
a whole, but that of the diversity of pos- 
sible points of view to the real indivisibility 
of the object. 

Many other problems are born of the 
same illusion. What stationary points are 
to the movement of a moving body, concepts 

\n Introduction to 

■ I / of different qualities are to the qualitative 
I A^^ change of an object. The various concepts 
into which a change can be analyzed are 
therefore so many stable views of the in- 
stability of the real. And to think of an 
object — in the usual meaning of the word 
" think " — is to take one or more of these 
immobile views of its mobility. It consists, 
in short, in asking from time to time where 
the object is, in order that we may know 
what to do with it. Nothing could be more 
legitimate, moreover, than this method of 
procedure, so long as we are concerned only 
with a practical knowledge of reality. 
Knowledge, in so far as it is directed to 
practical matters, has only to enumerate 
the principal possible attitudes of the thing 
towards us, as well as our best possible 
attitude towards it. Therein lies the oi 
^ nary function of ready-made concepts, thi 
iBtations with which we mark out the path 
of becoming. But to seek to penetrate with 
them into the inmost nature of things, is 
to apply to the mobility of the real a 

ible ^i 


Metaphysics 55 

method created in order to give stationary 
points of observation on it. It is to forget 
that, if metaphysic is possible, it can only 
be a laborious, and even painful, effort to 
remount the natural slope of the work of 
thought, in order fo place oneself directly, 
by a kind of intellectual expansion, within 
the thing studied : in short, a passage from 
reality to concepts and no longer from con- { 
cepts to reality. Is it astonishing that, like 
children trying to catch smoke by closing 
their hands, philosophers so often see the 
object they would grasp fly before them? 
It is in this way that many of the quarrels 
between the schools are perpetuated, each 
of them reproaching the others with having 
allowed the real to slip away. ^^^ 

But if metaphysics is to proceed by in- \ 
ition, if intuition has the mobility of 
duration as its object, and if duration is 
of a psychical naturo^ shall we not be con- 
fining the philosopher to the exclusive 
contemplation of himself? Will not phi- 
losophy come to consist in watching oneself 


An Introduction to 


merely live, " ae a sleepy shepherd watches 
the water flow"?^ To talk in this way 
would be to return to the error which, since 
the beginning of this study, we have not 
ceased to point out. It would be to mis- 
conceive the singular nature of duration, 
and at the same time the essentially active, 
I might almost say violent, character of 
metaphysical intuition. It wonld be fail- 
ing to see that the method we speak of 
alone permits us to go beyond idealism, 
as well as realism, to affirm the existence 
of objects inferior and superior (though in 
a certain sense interior) to us, to make 
them co-exist together without difficulty, 
and to dissipate gradually the obscurities 
that analysis accumulates round these great 
problems. Without entering here upon the 
study of these different points, let us con- 
fine ourselves to showing how the intuition 
we speak of is not a single act, but an in- 
definite series of acts, all doubtless of the 

> " Comme un patre assoupi regarde I'eau coaI« 
—BoUa, Alfred de Musset. (Tranelator's note.) ' 

Metaphysics 57 

same kind, but each of a very particular 
species, and how this diversity of acts 
corresponds to all the degrees of being. 

If I seek to analyse duration — that is 
resolve it into ready-made concepts — I ara 1 
compelled, by the very nature of the con- 
cepts and of analysis, to take two opposing 
views of duration- tn general, with which 
I then attempt to reconstruct it. This com- 
bination, which will have, moreover, some- 
thing miraculous about it — since one does 
not understand hiiw two contraries would 
ever meet each other — can present neither 
a diversity of degrees nor a variety of forms ; 
like ail miracles, it is or it is not. I shall 
have to say, for example, that there is on '\~ 
the one hand a multiplicity of successive / 
states of consciousness, and on the other a 
unity which binds them together. Duration 
will be the " synthesis " of this unity and 
this multiplicity, a mysterious operation 
which takes place in darkness, and in re- 
gard to which, I repeat, one does not see 
[ bow it would admit of shades or of degrees. 

58 An Introduction to 

In this hypothesis there is, and can only 
be, one single duration, that in which our 
own consciousness habitually works. To 
express it more clearly — ^if we consider 
duration under the simple aspect of a move- 
ment accomplishing itself in space, and we 
seek to reduce to concepts movement con- 
sidered as representative of time, we shall 
have, on the one hand, as great a number 
of points on the trajectory as we may de- 
sire, and, on the other hand, an abstract 
unity which holds them together as a thread 
holds together the pearls of a necklace. Be- 
tween this abstract multiplicity and this 
abstract unity, the combination, when once 
it has been posited as possible, is something 
unique, which will no more admit of shades 
than does the addition of given numbers in 
arithmetic. But if, instead of professing to 
analyze duration (i. e.^ at bottom, to make 
a synthesis of it with concepts), we at once 
place ourselves in it by an effort of intu- 
ition, we have the feeling of a certain very 
determinate tension, in which the determina- 

Metaphysics 59 

tion itself appears as a choice between an ^ 
infinity of possible durations. Hencefor- 
ward we can picture to ourselves as many 
durations as we wish, all very different 
from each other, although each of them, on 
being reduced to concepts — that is, observed 
externally from two opposing points of view 
— ^always comes in the end to the same in- 
definable combination of the many and the 

Let us express the same idea with more 
precision. If I consider duration as a 
multiplicity of moments bound to each 
other by a unity which goes through them 
like a thread, then, however short the chosen 
duration may be, these moments are un- 
limited in number. I can suppose them as 
close together as I please ; there will always 
be between these mathematical points other 
mathematical points, and so on to infinity. 
Looked at from the point of view of multi- 
plicity, then, duration disintegrates into a 
powder of moments, none of which endures, 
each being an instantaneity. If, on the 


tion 1 

other hand, I consider the nnity 
binds the moments together, this 
endare either, since by hypothesis ev< 
thing that is changing, and ererything thai 
is really dttrable in the duration, has been 
pnt to the acconnt of the muUiplidty of 
moments. As I probe more deeply into 
essence, this nnity will appear to me as soi 
immobile substratum of that which is mov- 
ing, as some intemporal essence of time ; it 
is this that I shall call eternity; an eter^ 
nitj of death, since it is nothing else 
the movement emptied of the mobility w! 
made its life. Closely examined, th e opin- 
jo^,Of _the opposing schools on the subject 
of duration would be seen to differ solely 
in this, that they attribute a capital import- 
ance to one or the other of these two con- 
cepts. Some adhere to the point of view 
i,^^.of the multiple; they set up as concrete 
' ' reality the distinct moments of a time which 
they have reduced to powder; the unity 
which enables us to call the grains a powi 
they hold to be much more artifii 


Metaphysics 6i 

Others, on the contrary, set up the unity of 
duration as concrete reality. They place 
themselves in the eternal. But as their 
eternity remains, notwithstanding, abstract, 
since it is empty, being the eternity of a 
concept which, by hypothesis, excludes from 
itself the opposing concept, one does not 
see how this eternity would permit of an 
indefinite number of moments coexisting in 
it. In the first hypothesis we have a world 
resting on nothing, which must end and 
begin again of its own accord at each in- 
stant. In the sefiond we have an infinity 
of abstract eternity, about which also it 
is just as difficult to understand why it does 
not remain enveloped in itself and how it 
allows things to coexist with it. But ij^J 
both cases, /and whichever of the two meta- 
physics it be that one is switched into,\ time 
appears, from the psychological point of 
view, as a mixture of two abstractions, 
which admit of neither degrees nor shades. 
/ In one system as in the other, there is only 
one unique duration, which carries every- 


An Introduction to 

thing with it — a bnttomlesB, banklese river, 
which flows without assignable force in a 
direction which could not be defined. Even 
then we can call it only a river, and the 
river only flows, because reality obtains 
from the two doctrines this concession, 
profiting by a moment of perplexity in their 
logic. As soon as they i-ecover from this 
perplexity, they freeze this flux either into 
an immense solid sheet, or into an 
finity of crystallized needles, always into 
ih ing which necessarily partakes of 
immobility of a point of viev}. 

It is quite otherwise if we place our- 
selves from the first, by an effort of intu- 
ition, in the concrete flow of duration. 
Certainly, we shall then find no logical 
reason for positing multiple and diverse 
durations. Strictly, there might well be 
no other duration than our own, as, for 
e.xample, there might be no other color in 
the world but orange. But just as a con- 
sciousness based on color, which sym- 
pathized internally with orange instead of 


Metaphysics 63 

perceiving it externally, would feel itself 
held between red and yellow, would even 
perhaps suspect beyond this last color a 
complete spectrum into which the conti- 
nuity from red to yellow might expand 
naturally, so the intuition of our duration, \ 
far from leaving us suspended in the void ^, 
as pure analysis would do, brings us into 
contact with a whole continuity of dura- . 
tions which we must try to follow, whether 
downwards or upwards; in both cases we 
can extend ourselves indefinitely by an in- 
creasingly violent effort, in both cases we '^^ 
transcend ourselves. In the first we ad- { 
vance towards a more and more attenu- / 
ated duration, the pulsations of which, 
being rapider than ours, and dividing our 
simple sensation, dilute its quality into 
quantity; at the limit would be pure homo- 
geneity, that pure repetition by which we 
define materiality. Advancing in the other 
direction, we approach a duration which 
strains, contracts, and intensifies itself 
more and more; at the limit would be ' 

An Introduction to 

eternitj... No longer conceptual eternity, 
which is an eternity of death, but an eter- 
nity of life. A living, and therefore still 
moving eternity in which onr own particular 
duration would be included as the vibra- 
tions are in light; an eternity which would 
be the concentration of all duration, as 
materiality is its dispersion. Between these 
two extreme limits intuition moves, and 
this movement is the very essence of 

There caa be no question of following 
here the various stages of this movement, 
But having presented a general view of tl 
method and made a first application of 
it may not be amiss to formulate, as pi 
cisely as we can, the principles on wi 
it rests. Most of the following pro] 
tions have already receive<i in this 
some degree of proof. We hope to di 
strate them more completely when w 
to deal with other problems. 






I. There is a reality that is external and 
yet given immediately to the mind. Com- 
mon-sense is right on this point, aa against 
the idealism and realism of the philosophers. 

II. This reality is mobility ._^ Not things^ 
made, but things in the making, not self- 
maintaining states, but only changing 
states, exist. Rest is never more than appar- 
ent, or, rather, relative. The consciousness 
we have of our own self in its continual flux 
introduces us to the interior of a reality, 
on the model of which we must represent 
other realities. All reality, therefore, is 
tendency, if we agree to mean hy tendency 
an incipient change of direction. 

III. Our mind, which seeks for solid 
points of support, has for its main func- 
tion in the ordinary course of life that of 
representing states and things. It takes, 
at long intervals, almost instantaneous 
views of the undivided mobility of the real- 
It thus obtains sensations and ideas. In 
this way it substitutes for the continuous 
the discontinuous, for motion stability, for 


An Introduction to 

tendency in process of change, fixed points 
marking a direction of change and ten- 
-dency. This subsfitntion is necessary to 
-Common-sense, to language, to practical 
'life, and even, in a certain degree, which 
we shall endeavor to determine, to posi- 
tive science. Our intellect, when it follows 
its natural hent, proceeds on the one hand 
hy solid perceptions, and on the other hy 
stable conceptions. It starts from the im- 
mobile, and only conceives and expresses 
movement as a function of immobility. It 
takes Tip its position in ready-made con- 
cepts, and endeavors to catch in them, 
as in a net, something of the reality 
which passes. This is certainly not done 
in order to obtain an internal and meta- 
physical knowledge of the real, but 
simply in order to utilize the real, each 
concept (as also each sensation) being a 
practical question which our activity puts 
to reality and to which reality replies, as 
must be done in business, by a Yes or 
a No. But, in doing that, it lets that 

Metaphysics 67 

which is its very essence escape from the 

IV. The inherent difficulties of meta- 
physic, the antinomies which it gives rise 
ixTy and the contradictions into which it 
falls, the division into antagonistic schools, 
and the irreducible opposition between 
systems are largely the result of our 
applying,^ to the disinterested knowledge of 
the real, processes which we generally em- 
ploy_ f or practical ends. They arise from 
the fact that we place ourselves in the im- 
mobile in order to lie in wait for the mov- 
ing thing as it passes, instead of replacing 
ourselves in the moving thing itself, in . 
order to traverse with it the immobile ^ 
positions. They arise from our professing 
to reconstruct reality — ^which is tendency 
and consequently mobility — ^with percepts 
and concepts whose function it is to make 
it stationary. With stoppages, however 
numerous they may be, we shall never make 
mobility; whereas, if mobility is given, we 
can, by means of diminution, obtain from 


68 An Introduction to 

it by thought as many stoppages as we de- 
sire. In other words, it is clear that fixed 
concepts may he extracted hy our thought 
from mobile reality; hut there are no 
means of reconstructing the mobility of 
the real unth fixed concepts. Dogmatism, 

however, in so far as it has been aTFuilder 
of systems, has always attempted this 

V. In this it was bound to faiL It is 
on this impotence and on this impotence 
only that the sceptical, idealist, critical 
doctrines really dwell : in fact, all doctrines 
that deny to our intelligence the power of 
attaining the absolute. But because we 
fail to reconstruct the living reality with 
stiff and ready-made concepts, it does not 
follow that we cannot grasp it in some other 
way. The demonstrations which have been 
given of the relativity of our knowledge 
are therefore tainted with an original vice; 
they imply, like the dogmatism they attack, 
that all knowledge must necessarily start 
from concepts with fixed outlii^es, in order 

Metaphysics 69 


to clasp with them the reality which 

■^ VI. But the truth is that our intelligence ^ 
can follow the opposite method. It can 
place itself within the mobile reality, and 
adopt its ceaselessly changing direction; in 
short, can grasp it by means of that intel- ^ .- 
lectual sympathy which we call intuition./ 
This is extremely difficult. The mind has 'y^ 
to do violence to itself, has to reverse the 
direction of the operation by which it habitu- 
ally thinks, has perpetually to revise, or 
rather to recast, all its categories. But in 
this way it will attain to fluid concepts, 
capable of following reality in all its sinu- 
osities and of adopting the very movement 
of the inward life of things. Only thus \j/ 
will a progressive philosophy be built up, ^ 
freed from the disputes which arise be- 
tween the various schools, and able to 
solve its problems naturally, because it will 
be released from the artificial expression 
in terms of which such problems are . 
posited. To philosophize, therefore, is to 


An Introduction to 

invert the habitual direction of the work 
, of thought. 

VII. This inversion has never been prac- 
tiwd in a methodical manner; but a pro- 
rotiQiIly t'onsidered history of hijman^ 
thought would show that we owe to f^^all 
i.hat. is greatest in the sciences, as well as 
all that is permanent in metaphysics. The 
most powerful of the methods of investiga- 
tion at the disposal of the hnman mind, 
the iulluitesimal calculus, originated from 
this wry tuveraion. Modem mathematics 
Is precisely an eflfort to substitute the being 
made for the irorfy made, to follow the 
gi'Qomtiou of magnitudes, to grasp motion 
no longer from nilhout and in its dis- 
pUi,vnl result, but from nithtQ and in its ' 
temlency to chan^> ; in short, to adopt the 
mobile continuity of the outlines of ihinga 
It is trw? that it is «mtine«l to the outline^ 
being oulv the science of magnitudes. It 
if true k1»o that it has only been able to 
tow its manvU^s applications by tbe 
mtioa of certain symboK and that if 



\M BOt 

the intuition of which we have just spoken 
lies at the origin of invention, it is the 
symbol alone which is concerned in the 
application. But metaphysics, which aims 
at no application, can and usually must 
abstain from converting intuition into sym- , 
bo Is. Liberated from the obligation of 
working for practically useful results, it 
ill indefinitely enlarge the domain of its 
.Testigations. What it may lose in com- 
parison with science in, utility and exacti- 
tude, it will regain in range-and exteiisiot]. 
hough mathematicR is only the science of 
ignitudes, though mathematical processes 
applicable only to quantities, it must 
be forgotten that quantity is always 
quality in a nascent state; it is, we might ,. 
say, the limiting case of quality. It is' 
natural, then, that metaphysics should 
adopt the generative idea of our mathe- 
matics in order to extend it to all qualities; 
that is, to reality in general. It will not, 
by doing this, in any way be moving to- 
wards universal mathematics, that chimera 


An Introduction to 


of modern philosophy. On the contrary, 1 
farther it goes, the more untranslatable 
into eymbola will be the objects it en- 
counters. But it will at least have begun 
ty getting into contact with the continuity 
and mobility of the real, just where this 
contact can be most marvelously utilized. 
It will have contemplated itself in a mirror 
which reflects an image of itself, much 
shrunken, no doubt, but for that reason 
very luminous. It will have seen with 
greater clearness what the mathematical 
processes borrow from concrete reality, and 
it will continue in the direction of concrete 
reality, and not in that of mathematical 
processes. Having then discounted before- 
hand what is too modest, and at the same 
time too ambitious, in the following 

. fonnula, we may say that the object of 
metaphysics is to perform qualitative dif- 

^- ferentiatioHS and integrations. 

VIII. The reason why this object has 
been lost sight of, and why science its 
has been mistaken in the origin of the | 

Metaphysics 73 

cesses it employs, is that intuition, once 
attained, must find a mode of expression 
and of application which conforms to the 
habits of our thought, and one which fur- 
nishes us, in the shape of well-defined con- 
cepts, with the solid points of support which 
we so greatly need. In that lies the con- 
dition of what we call exactitude and pre- 
cision, and also the condition of the 
unlimited extension of a general method to 
particular cases. Now this extension and 
this work of logical improvement can be 
continued for centuries, whilst the act 
ghich creates the method lasts but for a 
moment. T hat is why we so often take the 
logical equipment of science for science it- 
self,^ forgetting the metaphysical intuition 

from which all the rest has sprung. 

From the overlooking of this intuition 
proceeds all that has been said by phi- 
losophers and by men of science themselves 

1 On this point as on several other questions treated 
in the present essay, see the interesting articles by 
MM. Le Roy, Vincent, and Wilbois, which have 
appeared in the Revtie de Mitaphysique et de Morale. 

w — 1^ 

^^P about the " relativity " of scientific kuoi^^^^l 
'^-. edee. What is relative is the sumboUn ' 

about the " relativity " of scientific knoi 
edge. What is relative is the symbolic 
knowledge by pre-existing concepts, which 
proceeds from the fixed to the moving, and 
not the intuitive knowledge which instaUs 
itself in that which is moving and adopts^ 
the very life of things. This intuition aA 
tains the absolute. 
L Science and metaphysics therefore come 
together in intuition, A truly intuitive 
philosophy would realize the much-desired 
union of science and metaphysics. While 
it would make of metaphysics a positive 
Bcience— that is, a progressive and indel 
nitely perfectil)le one — it would at the 
time lead the positive sciences, properly so- 
called, to become conscious of their true 
scope, often far greater than they imagine. 
It would put more science into meti 
physics, and more metaphysics into 8cien« 
It would result in restoring the continuity 
between the intuitions which the various 
sciences have obtained here and there in 
the course of their history, and whicl 



le I 


sitive I 

I- so- ^^ 

ne. ^^^ 




[they have obtained only by strokes of 
[eniuB. -^^ 

IX. That there are not two difEerent 
" ways of knowing things fundamentally, that 
the various sciences have their root in 
metaphysics, is what the ancient p hi loBO-_ '>l 
phers generally thought. Their error did 
not lie there. It consisted in their being 

I always dominated by the belief, so natural 
to the human mind, that a variation can \ 
only be the expresaion and development of I 
what is invariable. Whence it followed 
that action was an enfeebled contemplation, 
duration a deceptive and shifting image of 
immobile eternity, the 8oul a fall from the 
Idea. The whole of the philosophy which 
begins with Plato and culminates in Ploti- 
nuB is the development of a principle which - 
I may be formulated thus : " There is more 
I in the immutable than in the moving, and 
■ we pass from the stable to the unstable by 
\ a mere diminution." Now it is the contrary 
I which is true. 

Modern science dates from the day when 

An Introduction to 

/mobility was set up as an independent 
I'eality. It dates from the day wUen 
Galileo, setting a ball rolling down an in- 
clined plane, finnly resolved to study this 
movement from top to bottom for itself, in 
itself, instead of seeking its principle in 
the concepts of high and low, two im- 
'' mobilities by which Aristotle believed he 
could adequately explain the mobility. And 
this is not an isolated fact in the history 
of science. Several of the great discoveries, 
of those at least which have transformed 
the positive sciences or which have created 
new ones, have been so many soundings 
in the depths of pure duration. The more 
living the reality touched, the deeper was 
the sounding. 

But the lead-line sunk to the sea bottom 
brings up a fluid mass which the sun's heat 
quickly dries into solid and discontinuous 
grains of sand. And the intuition of dura: 
tion, when it is exposed to the rays of the 
understanding, in like manner quickly turns 
into -fixed, distinct, and immobile concepts. 



[ In the living mobility of things the un- 
I deratandiug is bent on marking real or 
I virtual stations, it notes departures and 
arrivals; for this is all that concerns the 
I thought of man in so far as it is simply 
human. It is more than human to grasp 
what is happening in the interval. But 
philosophy can only be an efEort to tran- 
. Bcend the human condition, 
I Men of science have fixed their attention 
mainly on the concepts with which they 
have marked out the pathway of intuition. 
The more they laid stress on these residual 
I products, which have turned into symbols, 
* the more they attributed a symbolic char- 
acter to every kind of science. And the 
more they believed in the symbolic char- 
acter of science, the more did they indeed 
[•make science symbolical. Gradually they 
have blotted out all difference, in positive 
science, between the natural and the arti- 
ficial, between the data of immediate intu- 
ition, and the enormous work of analysis 
which the understanding pursues round 




An Introduction to 

intuition. Thus they have prepared the way 
for a doctrine which aflfirms the relativity 
of all our knowledge. 

But metaphysics has also labored to the 
Kame end. 

^ow could the masters of modem philoso- 
phy, who have been renovators of science 
as well as of metaphysics, have had no sense 
of the moving continuity of reality? How 
could they have abstained from placing 
themselves in what we call concrete dura- 
tion? They have done so to a greater ex- 
tent than they were aware ; above all, much 
more than they said. If we endeavor to 
link together, by a continuous connection, 
the intuitions about which systems have 
become organized, we find, together with 
other convergent and divergent lines, one 
very determinate direction of thought and 
of feeling. What is this latent thought? 
How shall we express the feeling? To 
borrow once more the language of the 
Platonists, we will say- — depriving the 
words of their psychological sense, and g 

Metaphysics 79 

ing the name of Idea to a certain settling 
down into easy intelligibility, and that of 
Soul to a certain longing after the restless- 
ness of life — that an invisible current 
causes modem philosophy to place the Soul 
above the Idea. It thus tends, like mod3rn 
science, and even more so than modern 
science, to advance in an opposite direc- 
tion to ancient thought. 

But this metaphysics, like this science, ^\ 
has enfolded its deeper life in a rich tissue ^ 
of symbols, forgetting something that, while . / 
science needs symbols for its analytical de- 
velopment, the main object of metaphysics 
is to do away with symbols. Here, again, 
the understanding has pursued its work of 
fixing, dividing, and reconstructing. It has ' 
pursued this, it is true, under a rather dif- / 
ferent form. Without insisting on a point 
which we propose to develop elsewhere, it 
is enough here to say that the understand- '^ 
ing, whose function it is to operate on stable 
elements, may look for stability either in 
relations or in things. In so far as it workw 


An Introduction^i 

on concepts of relations, it culminates in 
scientific symbolism. In so far as it works 
on concepts of things, it culminates in 
metaphysical symbolism. But in both cases 
the arrangement comes from the under- 
standing. Hence, it would fain believe itself 
independent. Rather than recognize at once 
what it awes to an intuition of the depths 
of reality, /it prefers exposing itself to the 
danger that its whole work may \te looked 
upon as nothing but an artificial arrange- 
ment of symbols. So that if we were to hold 
on to the letter of what metaphysicians and 
scientists say, and also to the material 
aspect of what they do, we might believe 
that the metaphysicians have dug a deep 
tunnel beneath reality, that the scientists 
have thrown an elegant bridge over it, but 
that the moving stream of things passes 
between these two artificial constructions 
without touching them. 

One of the principal artifices of the 
-Kantian criticism consisted in taking the 
: metaphysician and the scientist literally, 



forcing both metaphysics and science to the 
extreme limit of symbolism to which they 
could go, and to which, moreover, they make 
their way of their own accord as soon as 
the understanding claims an independence 
full of perils. Having once overlooked the-. 
ties that bind science and metaphysics to 
intellectual intuition, Kant has no diffi- 
culty in showing that our science is wholly i 
relative, and our metaphysics entirely arti-, | 
ficial. Since he has exaggerated the ind((- i 
pendence of the understanding in both 
cases, since he has relieved both meta- 
physics and science of the intellectual in- 
tuition which served them as inward ballast, 
science with its relations presents to him "" 
no more than a film of form, and meta- 
physics, with its things, no more than a 
film of matter. Is it surprising that the 
first, then, reveals to him only frames , 
packed within frames, and the second only 
phantoms chasing phantoms? 

He has struck such telling blows at our 
science and our metaphysic that they have 


An Introduction to 

not even yet quite recovered from their 
bewilderment. Our mind would readily re- 
sign itself to seeing in science a knowledge 
that is wholly relative, and in metaphysics a 
speculation that is entirely empty. It seems 
to us, even at this present date, that the 
Kantian criticism applies to all meta- 
physics and to all science. In reality, it 
applies more especially to the philosophy 
of the ancients, as also to the form — itself 
borrowed from the ancients — in which the 
moderns have most often left their thought. 
It is valid against a metaphysic which 
claims to give us a single and completed 
system of things, against a science profess- 
ing to he a single system of relations; in 
short, against a science and a metaphysic 
presenting themselves with the architec- 
tural simplicity of the Platonic theory of 
ideas op of a Greek temple. If meta- 
physics claims to he made up of concepts 
which were ours before its advent, if it con- 
sists in an ingenious arrangement of pre- 
existing ideas which we utilize as building 




material for an edifice, if, in short, it is 
anything else but the constant expansion 
of our mind, the ever-renewed effort to 
transcend our actual ldea« and perhaps 
also our elementary logic, it is but too evi- 
dent that, like all the works of pure under- 
standing, it becomes artificial. And if 
Bcieuce is wholly and entirely a work of 
.lysis or of conceptual representation, 
experience is only to serve therein as a 
verification for " clear ideas," if, instead of 
starting from multiple and diverse intu- 
ition — which insert themselves in the par- 
icular movement of each reality, hut do not 
.ways dovetail into each other, — it pro- 
fesses to be a vast mathematic, a single 
and closed-in system of relations, imprison- 
ing the whole of reality in a network pre- 
pared in advance,-^it becomes a knowledge 
purely relative to human understanding. If 
we look carefully into the Critique of Pure 
Reason, we see that science for Kant did 
indeed mean this kind of universal matfie- 
matic, and metaphysics this practically un- 

\n Introduction to 

altpred Platonism, In truth, the drt 
a universal mathematic is itself but a sur- 
vival nf Platonism, TJniversai mathematic 
is what the world of ideas becomes when 
we suppose that the Idea consists in a 
relation or in a law, and no Icmger in a 
thing. Kant ^ took this dream of a few 
modem philosophers for a reality; more 
than this, he believed that all scientific 
knowledge was only a detached fragment 
of, or rather a stepping-stone to, universal 
mathematics, Henr-e the main task of the 
Critique was to lay the foundation of this 
mathematic — that is, to determine what the 
intellect must be, and what the object, 
in order that an uninterrupted mathe- 
matic may bind them together. And of 
necessity, if all possible experience can be 
made to enter thus into the rigid and al- 
ready formed framework of our understand- 
ing, it is (unless we assume a pre-established 
' See on thia subject a very interesting article by 
Radulescu-Motru, " Zur Entwickelung von Kant'a 
Theorie der Nature a uaali tat," in Wundt's Fhiloao- 
pkwehe Studien (vol, ix., 1894). 

Metaphysics 85 

harmony) because our understanding itself 
organizes nature, and finds itself again 
therein as in a mirror. Hence the possi- 
bility of science, which owes all its efficacy 
to its relativity, and the impossibility of 
metaphysics, since the latter finds nothing 
more to do than to parody with phantoms of 
things the work of conceptual arrangement 
which science practises seriously on rela- 
tions. Briefly, the whole Critique of Pure 
Reason ends in establishing that Platonism, 
illegitimate if Ideas are things, becomes le- 
gitimate if Ideas are relations, and that the 
ready-made idea, once brought down in this 
way from heaven to earth, is in fact, as Plato 
held, the common basis alike of thought and 
of nature. But the whole of the Critique of 
Pure Reason also rests on this postulate, 
that our intellect is incapable of anything 
but Platonizing — ^that is, of pouring all pos- 
sible experience into pre-existing moulds. 

On this the whole question depends. If 
scientific knowledge is indeed what Ksmt 
supposed, then there is one simple science, 


An Introduction to 

preformed and even preformulated in 
ture, as Aristotle believed; great discov- 
eries, then, serve only to illuminate, point 
Iiy point, the already drawn line of this 
logio, immanent in things, just as on the 
night of a f^te we light tip one by one the 
rows of gas-jets which already outline 
the shape of some building. And if meta- 
physical knowledge is really what Kant 
supposed, it is reduced to a choice between 
two attitudes of the mind before all the 
great problems, both equally possible ; its 
manifestations are so many arbitrary and 
always ephemeral choices between two solu- 
tions, virtually formulated from all eter- 
iiity ; it lives and dies by antinomies. But 
the truth is that rai>dern science does not 
present this unilinear simplicity, nor di 
modern metaphysics present these ii 
ducible oppositions. 

Modern science is neither one nor simple. 
It rests, I freely admit, on ideas which in 
the end we find clear; but these idea,8 have 
gradually become clear through the use 

inle. I 

Metaphysics 87 

made of them ; they owe most of their clear- 
ness to the light which the facts, and the 
applications to which they led, have by 
reflection shed on them — the clearness of a 
concept being scarcely anything more at 
bottom than the certainty, at last obtained, 
of manipulating the concept profitably. At 
its origin, more than one of these concepts 
must have appeared obscure, not easily 
reconcilable with the concepts already ad- 
mitted into science, and indeed very near 
the border-line of absurdity. This means 
that science does not proceed by an orderly 
dovetailing together of concepts predestined 
to fit each other exactly. True and fruitful 
ideas are so many close contacts with cur- 
rents of reality, which do not necessarily 
converge on the same point. However, the 
concepts in which they lodge themselves 
manage somehow, by rubbing off each other's 
comers, to settle down well enough together. 
On the other hand, modem metaphysics 
is not made up of solutions so radical that 
they can culminate in irreducible oppo- 

An Introduction to 

sitions. It would be so, no doubt, if the 
were no means of accepting at the i 
time and on the same level the thesis i 
the antithesis of the antinomies. Bnf ' 
philosophy consists precisely in this, that 
by an effort of intuition one places oneself 
within that concrete reality, of which l 
Critique takes from without the two < 
posed views, thesis and antithesis, 1 con] 
never imagine how black and white inti 
penetrate if I had never seen gray ; bot I 
once I have seen gray I easily understand 
how it can be considered from two points 
of view, that of white and that of black. 
Doctrines which have a certain basis of in- 
tuition escape the Kantian criticism ex- 
actly in so far as they are intuitive; and 
these doctrines are the whole of meta- 
physics, provided we ignore the metaphysics 
which is fixed and dead in tkeaea^ and con- 
sider only that which is living in philoao-A 
pkera. The divergencies between the school! 
— that is, broadly speaking, between, 
groups of disciples formed roond 

Metaphysics 89 

great masters — ^are certainly striking. But 
would we find them as marked between the 
masters themselves? Something here domi- 
nates the diversity of systems, something, 
we repeat, which is simple and definite like 
a sounding, about which one feels that it has 
touched at greater or less depth the bottom of 
the same ocean, though each time it brings up 
to the surface very different materials. It is 
on these materials that the disciples usually 
work; in this lies the function of analy- 
sis. And the master, in so far as he formu- 
lates, develops, and translates into abstract 
ideas what he brings, is already in a way 
his own disciple. JBut the simple act which N 
started the analysis^ anid^^which gpficeals^^ 
itself behind the analxsiSj, .proceeds from aj 


faculty quite differen t from the analytical. / 
TfiiOs, By If 8 vei^r deflnitign^intiiS^ [ 
In conclusion, we may remark that there 
is nothing mysterious in this faculty. 
Every one of us has had occasion to ex- 
ercise it to a certain extent. Any one of 
us, for instance, who has attempted literary 

90 An Introduction to 

cMDpositiOD, kBows that wheQ the subjel 
hag been stadied at length, the materials 
all collected, and the notes all made, some- 
thing more is needed in order to set about 
the work of composition itself, and that is 
an often very painfal effort to place our- 
Belvea directly at the heart of the subject, 
and to seek as deeply as possible an im- 
pulse, after which we need only let our- 
selveB go. This impulse, once received, 
starts the mind on a path where it re- 
discovers all the information it had col- 
lected, and a thousand other details besides ; 
it develops aud analyzes itticlf into terms 
which could be enumerated indefinitely. 
The farther we go, the more terms we dis- 
cover; we shall never say all that could be 
said, and yet, if we turn back suddenly 
upon the impulse that we feel behind uSi^ 
and try to seize it, it is gone; for it ^s&. 
[not a thing, but the direction of a move- 
ment, and though indefinitely extensible»_it 
, is infinitely simple. Metaphysical inti 
ition seems to be something of the i 

Metaphysics 91 

kind. What corresponds here to the docu- 
ments and notes of literary composition is 
the sum of observations and experiences, 
gathered together by positive science. For , 
we do not obtain an intuition from reality 
— that is, an intellectual sympathy with the 
most intimate part of it — unless we have' 
won its confidence by a long fellowship/ j 
\idth its superficial manifestations. And it 
is not merely a question of assimilating the 
most conspicuous facts ; so immense a mass 
of facts must be accumulated and fused to- 
gether, that in this fusion all the precon- 
ceived and premature ideas which observers 
may unwittingly have put into their ob- 
servations will be certain to neutralize each 
other. In this way only can the bare ma- 
teriality of the known facts be exposed to 
view. Even in the simple and privileged 
case which we have used as an example, 
even for the direct contact of the self with 
the self, the final effort of distinct intu- 
ition would be impossible to any one who 
had not combined and compared with each 

^3 An Introduction to Metaphysics 

other a very large number of psychological 
analyses. The masters of modem phili 
phy were men who had assimilated 
the scientific knowledge of their time, 
the partial eclipse of metaphysics for the 
last half-century has evidently no other 
cause than the extraordinary difBcull 
which the philosopher finds to-day in gel 
ting into touch with positive science, which 
has become far too specialized. But meta- 
physical intuition, although it can be ob- 
tained only through material knowledge, 
quite other than the mere summary or syn- 
thesis of that knowledge. It is distin< 
from these, we repeat, as the motor im- 
pulse is distinct from the path traversed by 
the moving body, as the tension of the 
spring is distinct from the visible move- 
ments of the pendulum. In this sense 
I metaphysics has nothing in common with 
i a generalization of facts, and nevertheless 
i it might be defined as integral experience. 

jgical ^1 
3 ali^B 

, and ^^\ 
her J 

lich I 

■n. I 

by n 


AJJR 7 - 1916 

M Selection from the 
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The Life of the Spirit 

An IctroductioQ to Philosophy 

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